plague black death
17th century art depicting the Black Death in London (Image: Wikimedia)

During the long months of lockdown, millions of ambitious writers have been bashing out the great pandemic novel/screenplay. Most will be terrible. But perhaps a handful might come close to capturing the surreal disquiet of the past months. 

While 2020 is a year none of us will be eager to relive any time soon, it’s only a matter of time before the first wave of corona-lit is upon us. The maddening, loneliness of lockdown, the helplessness of watching death close in, the banality of a million zoom calls are, whether we like it or not, all fertile artistic and literary terrain.

And for centuries, literature has had a morbid fascination with plagues -- from Boccacio’s The Decameron to Mantel’s Wolf Hall, by way of Poe and Shelley and Camus.